Skip to content

Cookies 🍪

This site uses cookies that need consent.

Learn more

Zur Powderguide-Startseite Zur Powderguide-Startseite

Language selection

Search PowderGuide


ContestHappening 1 | 2023

The competition series starts next weekend after the FIS takeover

by Tobias Huber 01/24/2023
The FWT season starts next weekend. As many have already noticed, the Freeride World Tour has been swallowed up by the FIS. Little will change in the upcoming season, at least for spectators. What this step means for the medium-term future of contest freeriding is still up in the air.

This year's format and locations remain unchanged from last season. Three regular stops will initially take place in Kicking Horse (Canada), Baqueira Berret (Spain) and Ordino Arcalis (Andorra). The best two results from these three events will qualify a reduced field of riders for the finals. The overall winners will be determined at the 2-run format in Fieberbrunn (Austria) and the Xtreme Verbier (Switzerland).

Following a 2022 season characterized by difficult snow conditions, things will continue in a similar vein in 2023. The first tour stop in Kicking Horse had to be postponed due to critical, avalanche-prone conditions. An old snow problem on the "Ozone" face prompted the organizers to postpone the stop to mid-February with a few weeks' notice. The riders were therefore able to reschedule their season in good time and are only tied to the FWT calendar at the end of January this year.

This year's line-up of participants has changed quite a bit compared to last season. From a German-speaking perspective, Austria is now very well positioned: Juniors winner, wildcard holder and Fieberbrunn winner Max Hitzig and the re-qualified Valle Rainer will be there for the whole season. For Fieberbrunn there is a wildcard for Dennis Ranalter. Freestyler Ralph Welponer from South Tyrol could follow in the big footsteps of Markus Eder, as he received a wildcard at the last minute. Leo Slemett and 2022 overall snowboard winner Blake Moller have decided to skip the 2023 season and concentrate on mountain guide training (Slemett) and film projects (Moller). Victor de le Rue and Manuela Mandl, among others, have also canceled their participation in this year's tour due to injuries. Aymar Navarro, the driving force behind the tour stop in Spain, is once again taking part this year with a season wildcard. Finn Bilous will also be concentrating on the FWT for the entire season after his guest appearance in Fieberbrunn last year. Details on the field of riders and the new season can be found in the two current FWT podcasts, e.g. on YouTube and wherever else you can find podcasts.

FIS Freeride World Tour

Even if spectators won't notice much apart from the FIS logo this year: The takeover by the FIS is causing great unease among some, which is of course supported by examples from the past in related disciplines. Both freestyle snowboarding and the freeski disciplines with slopestyle and halfpipe have not necessarily attracted attention for their increased attractiveness for athletes and spectators following the restructuring by the FIS. Decisions were made by non-specialist officials over the heads of the athletes and attempts were made to re-regulate a subculture (snowboarding, freeskiing) that had developed out of rebellion against regulated association structures and to integrate it into association structures. With its Juniors, Qualifiers, Challenger and World Tour events, the FWT already represents a kind of association structure with an umbrella organization. Independent events representing freeriding have become increasingly rare in recent years anyway, most of them run under the FWT brand. You could see the FWT as a kind of existing FIS in contest freeriding. But perhaps there is also a counter-movement of people organizing freeride events, which have a freer, fun-focused ulterior motive than the well-structured, athletic professionalism that the FWT and ultimately the FIS seem to be striving for. Freeriding does not have to be a (competitive) sport that has to be performed according to a certain template. Breaking out of the rules and regulations offers the opportunity for interesting new formats.

Problems that the FWT already has will probably not get worse with the FIS. Perhaps with the FIS in the bag, it will be possible to find new resort partners that offer interesting venues and are also known for good snow conditions. The selection of the respective faces, the consistent inclusion of the two disciplines of skiing and snowboarding, the size of the field of participants could, for example, be called into question for a more marketable, shorter broadcast format if new sponsors and marketers are brought on board via the FIS.

The takeover by the FIS is necessary realpolitik, because even if the FWT is the market leader or, since the end of the "Freeskiing World Tour" 2016, even the monopolist among freeride competitions - the FWT is a small fish, and the uncertainties that global crises and climate change mean require a partnership with a stronger organization. The same process can be observed for many small manufacturers and ski resorts and seems to be a natural consequence of capitalism: the big fish swallow the small ones. You can mourn this or revolt against it, or accept it as reality.

So what does the FIS takeover mean for us as an audience, as well as for the FWT employees and the FWT athletes? For us, nothing seems to change for the time being and the 2022/23 season will continue as usual. How marketing rights and access to live streams will be negotiated in the future remains to be seen. For the FWT employees, the takeover promises greater job security for the time being, as long as there is no business rationalization. But for the athletes in particular, the takeover seems to have hardly any disadvantages, but rather advantages: with the FIS as a recognized umbrella organization, it will be easier to apply for funding in the future, sponsorship should improve and new marketing channels should open up. Professionalization up to the youth level was initiated with the FWT Juniors and this development will probably be further strengthened by the FIS. There are therefore many positive aspects to the takeover, especially from an athlete's perspective, and the future of the FWT seems secure.

The first stop in Baqueira Beret (Spain) is now coming up. The weather window is open from 28.1. to 2.2. It has just snowed and the conditions are expected to be quite acceptable for a safe contest.

This article has been automatically translated by DeepL with subsequent editing. If you notice any spelling or grammatical errors or if the translation has lost its meaning, please write an e-mail to the editors.

Show original (German)

Related articles